Sissy Spacek stars opposite Robert Redford in ‘The Old Man & the Gun’, a warm-hearted story about a real-life bank robber (Redford) as Forrest Tucker, who despite his advancing years can’t quit the bank-robbing business. Spacek is perfectly cast as his love interest, Jewel, who also acts as support system.
In real life, the Oscar-winning actress (Coal Miner’s Daughter) and cult heroine (Carrie) has been married to art director, Jack Fisk, since 1974, and the couple have raised their two daughters on a farm in Virginia. Admirably, Spacek has led her life away from the spotlight which has afforded her and her family an ‘ordinary’ life. But after meeting this warm, funny, smart woman, it’s evident that there is nothing ‘ordinary’ about Spacek. She sits down with MiNDFOOD in a rare interview about her new movie, what keeps her young and family life.
In The Old Man & the Gun, your character, Jewel, is certainly not stupid but she falls for Tucker, a bank robber. What do you make of that?
Well, he bamboozled her. I think she was very torn about what to do. And I don’t know about you, but some years I’ll think to myself, ‘This is going to be a yes year! I’m going to say yes to life. I’m going to say yes to things. I’m going to jump in!’ And I think Jewel was having a yes year, a yes time when she met him. But what usually comes after a while of saying yes, pretty soon you’ll have a while of saying no. I found it poignant and sad. I think she kept thinking, ‘How can she get him to quit his evil ways?’ But really, Jewel was there to illuminate Forrest Tucker, and that was my job, I think.
I know you haven’t worked with Redford before – how did you find him?
Well, he’s such a gentleman and he’s so smart. Those of us who have worked in independent films owe him so much. He’s done so much for young, independent film-makers and old, independent film-makers with Sundance (Film Festival). He’s going to leave quite a legacy. And, really, who doesn’t love Robert Redford?
What keeps you young?
Well, I love acting but I love the collaboration and I just feel as much excitement now about the collaborative art of film-making as I did when I first started out, although when I first started out I didn’t really know what I was getting into. And now, I’m so grateful to be where I am.
As an actress do you worry about aging? It doesn’t seem to have made an impact on your career.
Well, part of having a long career is watching yourself age on screen. It’s sobering but also it’s very good. It’s humbling. I once went with my husband to a retrospective of Bette Davis and they showed clips from her whole career from when she was very, very young until her very last work. I was thrilled by it and afterwards my husband said, ‘Oh my God, that was so terrifying watching her age like that!’ And I went, ‘Terrifying. She has proof that she was once young!’ (laughs) So, that’s kind of how I look at it.
What are some of your favourite Sissy Spacek movies?
Well, certainly Badlands, where I met my husband, and then of course Coal Miner’s Daughter and Carrie, the highlights through my career. Also, there’s also In The Bedroom and now, The Old Man & the Gun, of course.
Tell me a bit about your life.
Well, I live on a farm in Virginia. I’m a gardener and for 40 years I was a runner. Now I’m a walker (laughs) and I think the most wonderful thing about my life, that I’m most happy about, is that I’ve been able to have a career and play roles that I’ve just adored while also having a simple life, raising my children with my family. One has supported the other. My real life has been the gift that balanced my work life.
And you have a daughter who’s a singer?
Yes, Schuyler’s a singer and I have a daughter Madison who’s an artist. We’re all doomed to the art life I’m afraid (laughs).
Are you going to her gigs?
Oh yes. I like doing clean up detail, you bet! I’ll sell sodas and I’ll run the merch table! And for my daughter, the artist, I’ll help hang the show. Both my husband and I are very close to our girls.
You’re also working with Julia Roberts on Homecoming. What was that like?
Well, it was wonderful. I love Julia. I’ve known her since she was a teenager and so we kind of have a familial connection to each other. Homecoming is a great cast. Dermot Mulroney, Shea Whigham, Bobby Cannavale. It’s a very beautifully odd and there’s a melancholy. The music’s incredible and it’s a really neat half-hour drama. It’s spectacular.
Your real name is Mary Elizabeth – where did Sissy come from?
Oh my God (laughs). Well, my older brothers nicknamed me Sissy and I idolised them so when I started school and they said, ‘What’s your name? Mary or Elizabeth?’ I signed Sissy to my paper. I think I got in trouble but I kept doing it anyway.
I thought you might have taken it from the Empress Sisi in Austria.
Oh, I like that much better (laughs). I wish I had talked to you years ago! (laughs).
You live on a farm. Is that a working farm?
Well, it was. It was a horse farm for many years. It’s still a horse farm but we only have one horse left with one foot in the grave, the other on a banana peel (laughs). We have a lot of cats and dogs, we have a couple of pygmy goats and ducks, wild mallards and geese and a lot of snapping turtles.
I’m pretty sure you’ve ridden horses all your life?
Yes. I’ve ridden all my life and I am not saying I’m a good rider but I usually was able to stay on.
What makes you happy?
My family, my animals, my home, my gardens. Oh, I shouldn’t probably tell you this but I got a battery operated leaf blower from my family for Mother’s Day (laughs) and I just go to town with it! (laughs) One of my favourite things to do is get outside in my pajamas in the morning and blow off all the leaves and clean up all around the house outside. It’s those little things, those little human things we do that are really the best. I feel so grateful because I’ve had not only a fabulous career but I’ve had a fabulous life and a really simple life. I loved the way I grew up in a little town knowing everybody, riding my pony around and I wanted my children to have that kind of a childhood. I’ve been able to enjoy that throughout my life living in the country. It’s where I belong.